Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The letter I wrote to Hekia this morning

Dear Mrs Parata

I am writing to say that I think that your decision to close Ouruhia Model School in Christchurch along with many of the other schools you are proposing to close in Christchurch is wrong.  My family have recently moved to France with my husbands work but up until 5 weeks ago my three children were attending Ouruhia Model School.  Our contract in France is for two years and then we had been intending on going back to Christchurch and to Ouruhia Model School.  Our children aged 10, 9 and 7 all attended Ouruhia since they were 5 years old and we loved the small, family orientated rural setting.  I am a teacher and have taught in many schools in New Zealand and England and also taught part time at Ouruhia and I can honestly say it would be one of the best schools I have worked in.  It has kind caring staff and wonderful families who have all chosen to send their children to Ouruhia because it is small and family focused and the children get different opportunities to other schools.  As I'm sure you know Ouruhia goes right through to year 8 and at the first Christmas concert I attended the thing that amazed me was how every student in Year 7 and 8 was on the stage singing, acting or preforming in some way - part of the school culture and expectations.  What an amazing thing to have every 12 and 13 year old boy and girl up on stage and what an amazing role model to set.  Ouruhia children are special kids, every second Wednesday North Canterbury Sports would come out and coach the children on a variety of different sports.  It would often occur while I was teaching and I would get chatting to the coaches.  They said several times how Ouruhia was one of their favourite schools to come to as the kids were so well behaved and were great kids and always enjoyed the activities.

Personally, Ouruhia Model School has been a godsend.  Our daughter Hannah who is 10 years old has Down Syndrome and when we made the decision to send her to our local school, Ouruhia, we were delighted with the welcome.  Mark Ashmore-Smith welcomed us and Hannah and has always done all he can to get Hannah the best support possible.  Things that have been problems, such as .1 support, discrimination, segregation, for some of my friends with children with Down Syndrome at other schools have never been a problem for us.  A friend of mine who was having issues with her daughters school came out to Ouruhia to talk to Hannah's teacher and teacher aide to see how things could be done differently and was amazed with the support Hannah received and how beautifully she was accepted.  I would say that how Hannah was treated at Ouruhia was the perfect example of how inclusive education in New Zealand should work and was an example to other schools.

Part of Ouruhia's special character is it open, loving accepting nature.  It may not be a big school but parents deserve to have a choice where to send their children especially when for the majority of families it is the closest school to them.  Most children know all the other children and most parents would know the other families.  New parents are welcomed warmly and included instantly in all school activities.

No one knows better then the people of Christchurch the devastating affect of the earthquakes and how it affects every person every day in all that they do from not being able to open windows in your house to driving down bumpy, pot holed filled roads to no longer being able to go to the closest aquatic centre for swimming lessons.  The people of Christchurch are very aware of how the earthquakes have changed the city and live on edge every single moment of every day as to when or if another earthquake will come.  The first thing my children said when we told them we were moving to France was "Do they have earthquakes" then they wanted to know what other natural disasters France has.  It was nice to be able to tell them France has no natural disasters really.  For the National government to deliver another uncertainty, another change is cruel and unnecessary.  I know people have left Christchurch due to the earthquakes and like us for other reasons but the people that have chosen to stay and support our wonderful city deserve some certainty and normality.  Everything else has changed, the roads, people's homes, local shops, Churches have all been destroyed, lost or changed but the local school has been the constant and the rock for so many of our Christchurch communities. Please don't destroy this as well as I think if you do people won't return to Christchurch and will continue to leave.

My stand out memory among many wonderful memories of Ouruhia was on the first anniversary of the February 23rd when we had a minutes silence and the whole school stood in a circle and held hands.  After the minutes silence Jocelyn Murray the Deputy Principal said a prayer and was thankful for our wonderful school and the safe haven that it was for all the children and parents on that fateful day a year ago.  Such a precious place and such precious people.

Thank you for reading and hearing my concerns.

Yours sincerely

Rachel Lonsdale


  1. Wow Rach. What a powerful letter. I am right behind you, it is very short-sighted of them to close so many schools. Thanks for sharing it with us. Love Hayley xxx

  2. What a great letter. Your Grandfather, my Dad and your other grandfather would be real proud of you as I am. My Dad was always writing letters to prove a point. It made me cry to read it. Well done.
    Lots of love.

  3. Yes, I had a tear in my eye too Beth, great letter Rach, I hope someone out there is listening. Well done Rach, I have never voted Labour, but I,m closemnow. Love you.

  4. What an awesome letter, Rachel. A lot of thinking and putting words and thoughts together have gone into it. I do hope Hekia Parata reads it personally. Thanks heaps from us all. Yesterday we got the offficial proposal in writing. It came, hand delivered, while we were in assembly. Our closure date has been extended until December, 2014. Submissions against this are due in by 7th December - I think that is the date. Then the Ministry's final decision will be announced on 18th Feb, 2013. So at least we will know then what is happening. It has been a very difficult time, especially for the choldren and families. Love to you all. Jos. xx